I have begun to dress like an Ewok. And I’m pretty sure it is a direct result of childbirth and motherhood.
I only really had the epiphany about my Ewok-status about two weeks ago, when I realized that every shirt currently in my wardrobe has the distinct asymmetrical bag appearance that those Ewoks’ hoodies had. It doesn’t matter what store the shirt came from—all the shirts I have purchased since I Eliana-ed are basically big, bulbous asymmetrical bags in a various assortment of colors, occasionally with bat-wing-like arm-holes. I wear them with leggings and boots. When I’m not teaching, this is my uniform.
As it turns out, it’s hard to coordinate date night for us, but I’m usually dressed and ready to go to a bar on Tatooine.
If you are reading this, it’s likely that you or someone you know has recently had a baby. It is also likely that, no matter how far away that woman is from childbirth, she has been struggling with her physical self-image in some way, usually in the dark of a closet somewhere or behind closed doors, when she has all of three minutes to look in the mirror as she dresses herself before a baby or child needs her to do something super important like de-booger a nose or find an obscure, piece-of-shit toy that she should’ve thrown out because it’s probably made in China and covered in arsenic and lead paint. When she looks in the mirror, desperate to get dressed because motherhood does not afford the luxury of getting dressed slowly, she notices that shirts that were once normal looking have inexplicably become shrinky-dinks. Pants that used to fit and look good are mocked by the smug sneer of persistent muffin top that—due to karma—is resistant to sit-ups. And don’t get me started on the somewhat fitted normal shirts we once wore. Au revoir. Personally, I’d rather filet myself than wear one (and, if I did filet myself, they might actually fit me better).
It’s not even the number on the scale that upsets me; I am only 3 pounds up from pre-pregnancy weight. It’s the look of it on my body, in spite of going to the gym and in spite of training for and running a 5K.
This happens to be a very sad, solitary way to start the day each morning, this spotlight on the body. Mercy, in fact, is provided only by a schedule that necessitates less self-indulgence because there are little people who need breakfast, help getting dressed, their beds made, and to have fights with about why they cannot bring four types of Chapstick to school or why it is socially unacceptable to wear thirteen barrettes in your hair. But yet somehow, every day, in the eight minutes I have to myself to get dressed each morning, I find myself shaken by how different my body looks. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I supported life. Yeah, yeah, nine months in, nine months out. Yeah, yeah, yeah, you do the crime, you do the time. Yes, I know: I’m really unspeakably lucky to have had not one child, but two—and so easily!—and yes, I know, this is just a really bitchy, selfish, entitled, spoiled and horrid thing to think about.
But still. I think.
And when I see myself in the mirror—and see the pudgy tummy that once so proudly held babies in it—the weight stares me down, pulling me down with it.
Just this morning, I patted the softness of my belly before I pulled on some tights. To Husband, I said, “Seriously. Look at this.”
To which he responded, “Yeah, well, look at this,” and patted his belly the same way.
Nothing like belly-fat camaraderie between two lovers.
Tilting my head in the mirror, I sighed, “I just hate the way my stomach looks.”
Lila walks into our bedroom and sizes me up. She tilts her head just as I tilted mine and asks, “Because it’s just a little big, Mommy?”
In fairness, I have no interest in taking physical body/fashion critique from a three-year-old who chooses to wear a clip-on feather in her hair, but still. Not yet savvy in social nuance, the girl can’t lie about what she sees and what Mommy looks like to her.
Meanwhile, muffin top or not, life goes on, and the irony is not lost on me that as I ache for my body to look better, I relish watching the numbers going up on the scale for Eliana as she grows into a real person.
Because this week, Eliana turns six months old. She is now a full-fledged fabulous baby: the gurgles are constant, her endless babbling of consonants giving us a steady stream of baby consciousness that is probably more lucid than Faulkner ever was. As Eliana babbles “Da-da-da-da-da-da,” Lila smiles and jumps with delight but then says, “Hey! Stop calling me Daddy! I’m LILA!”
And in spite of Lila’s frequent chastisement and the distinct similarity of Eliana’s baby cereal to spackle, Eliana seems to be enjoying every second of life. And every time I feed her cereal, though its pasty, glue-y appearance forces me to fight the urge to drywall something, I enjoy watching her enjoy food for the first time.
In the coming weeks, we’ll teach Eliana how to eat more than cereal-glue. And if Lila’s babyhood is any indication, Eliana will savor apples and explore the moisturizing effects that squash can have on her scalp. She will shove her whole hand in her mouth and squeal with joy as she devours those first peaches, licking each finger as she samples their summer sweetness. She will channel William Carlos Williams as she enjoys plums, her face suggesting they were “so sweet and so delicious”. She will guide my soft-tipped spoon into her mouth quickly, eagerly pulling the spoon closer in anticipation of what new treasure will tickle her taste buds. And I will smile, thinking ahead to all the meals we will share together as a family, looking forward to all the delicious moments ahead of us, both gustatory and emotional.
But as I continue to feed both of my girls, I’ll also be reminded that while they see the food on their plates, they will also see me, Mommy, and my reaction to my food on my plate, my body, and how I look. And like it or not, they will do what they see. So when Mommy frowns at her reflection in the mirror, this too will become a learned behavior. When Mommy tries something on and throws it to the floor in self-loathing, that too will be internalized by my perennial peanut gallery.
I may not like how I look, but the idea of creating that kind of legacy is a much harder weight for me to bear.
Which means from this day forth, I am sad Ewok no longer.
Muffin top or not, if it will enable my girls to have positive body images, I’m going to be the proudest Ewok in Endor.